A decision on whether the Railways Ministry should hike fares and freight rates in the Rail Budget next month will only be taken after discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Railways Minister Sadananda Gowda said on Tuesday.
After meeting Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for a pre-budget discussion, Gowda said that while his budget will try to address issues related to safety, FDI in railways, pending projects and a growth chart for the national transporter, the decision on hiking fares will only be taken after discussions with the PM.
“I will meet the PM and the Cabinet shortly to discuss the issue,” the minister said.
A proposal to increase fares by 14 per cent and freight rates by 6.25 per cent has already been mooted by the previous government. The proposal was presented to former Railways minister Mallikarjun Kharge on May 16 — the day Lok Sabha results were declared — but Kharge had decided to leave it for the next government to decide.
Gowda said that unlike other ministries, the Railways does not have a 100-day agenda, as stressed by the PMO. “We have five-year commitment not a 100-day agenda. Yes there are internal targets, but unlike other ministries, Railways is a 24×7 ministry,” he said.
Gowda has also asked for a quantum jump in the Gross Budgetary Support from the finance minister in the General Budget. Last year the amount was Rs 25,000 crore, even though the Railways had sought around Rs 45,000 crore.
He has also sought a special safety fund for critical safety-related upgrades.
“A special safety fund is the need of the hour. That apart, we have sought some concessions, and benefits in terms of certain taxes and cesses,” he said.
On the huge backlog of projects, Gowda said his priority would be the projects that are currently under way but he would review the ones which were sanctioned on paper but haven’t taken off yet.